22 September 2020

India-China Cyber War: China Second Most Powerful Cyber-Power & India Could Face The Chinese Brunt


As India and China are engaged in prolonged border tensions, India is boosting its capability to deal with cyber-attacks given growing threats from China and the prospects of algorithmic warfare. 

Although India’s cyber command under Rear Admiral Mohit Gupta became operational in November 2019, experts fear that the recent military stalemate along its borders with China may blow to non-contact or algorithmic warfare.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, India’s former Director-General of Military Operations retired Lt. Gen. Vinod Bhatia apprehended that there may be a shift to non-contact warfare between the two countries.

“It is a stalemate on the ground. The domain, in this case, may shift to non-contact warfare without changing the stance on the ground. Thus, we will also have our defenses ready when it comes to non-contact warfare including cyberattacks,” he said.

According to a recent National Cyber Power Index report published by Harvard University’s Belfer Center, China ranks second, after the US, in cyber power. The report has identified seven national objectives that countries pursue using cyber means including surveillance, foreign intelligence collection, and cyber defenses.

“Countries with high levels of both intent and capability for a specific objective are among the highest-ranking countries in the NCPI. These countries both signal in strategies and previously attributed cyber-attacks that they intend to use cyber to achieve policy goals and have the capabilities to achieve them” stated the report.

Is China avoiding conflict or secretly planning a counterattack against India?

Antara Ghosal Singh

India’s capturing of key strategic heights along the southern bank of the Pangong Lake during the intermittent night of August 29 and 30 and the subsequent firing incidents at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) on September 7-8 marked a new round of escalation in China-India border confrontation, which has been going on since early May.

The Chinese government expressed its displeasure at these developments by apparently changing the official communication strategy that it followed since the beginning of the stand-off and seizing the initiative to launch a public opinion offensive by releasing its own version of the developments along the China-India border first and coming up with Chinese names for contested points at the LAC.

China’s state media too issued a series of threats saying India has “crossed all lines”, “it is standing awkwardly on the edge of a cliff”, “Indian military is not even a worthy opponent of the PLA” and thereby urged it to either withdraw troops “unconditionally” or be ready to get “wiped out” at the battlefield.

Even as Beijing seems to be beating the war drums, many within China are of the opinion that China’s India policy at this juncture is lacking strength and its military deterrence against India is increasingly proving ineffective.

The questions doing rounds among Chinese strategic circles are that despite India’s “all-out attack” vis-a-vis China (political-economic-military) post the Galwan Valley incident, why has the Chinese government still not taken “equal” and “reciprocal” countermeasures on ground against India? Why is China still talking about ‘resolute opposition’ but not announcing immediate counter-attacks? Why are the diplomats of both countries still exchanging goodwill? Looking at the trend, some Chinese strategists conjectured that the Chinese government is either avoiding conflict, or it is secretly and intensively planning a counterattack against India.

Attacks surge in northwest Pakistan as Afghan peace effort brings shifting sands

By Umar Farooq

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Militants have stepped up attacks on security forces in northwest Pakistan raising fears of a revival of their insurgency and a return of lawlessness as brighter prospects for peace in Afghanistan herald shifting Islamist alliances.

The ethnic Pashtun border region was for years a haven for militants who fled the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. But the Pakistani military cleared out the strongholds in a 2014 offensive, driving most of the fighters into Afghanistan.

But since March, al Qaeda-linked Pakistani Taliban, facing the risk of losing havens on the Afghan side of the border if their Afghan Taliban allies make peace there, have unleashed a wave of attacks on the Pakistani security forces.

Bolstering their bid to re-establish themselves in the border lands, the Pakistani Taliban, or Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), struck an alliance in July with half a dozen small militant factions.

“The group’s capability and military strength has increased, as has their reach,” said Mansur Khan Mahsud, executive director of the Islamabad-based FATA Research Centre.

September has seen near daily incidents, from roadside bombs to sniper attacks, to ambushes and the killing of residents accused of collaborating with government forces.

The fate of women’s rights in Afghanistan

John R. Allen and Vanda Felbab-Brown

As the United States reduces its military presence in Afghanistan while the Taliban remain strong on the battlefield, and while peace negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban have commenced, a massive question mark hangs over the fate of Afghan women and their rights. The deal that the United States signed with the Taliban in Doha on February 29, 2020, leaves the future of Afghan women completely up to the outcomes of the intra-Taliban negotiations and battlefield developments. In exchange for the withdrawal of its forces by summer 2021, the United States only received assurances from the Taliban that the militants would not attack U.S. and its allies’ targets, conduct terrorist attacks against U.S. and allies’ assets, or allow the territory under Taliban control to be used for such terrorist attacks. How Afghanistan and its political order is redesigned is left fully up to the negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government and other Afghan politicians, powerbrokers, and—hopefully—representatives of Afghan civil society. But there are strong reasons to be believe that the fate of Afghan women, particularly urban Afghan women from middle- and upper-class families who benefited by far the most from the post-2001 order, will worsen. The United States’ leverage to preserve at least some of their rights and privileges is limited and diminishing. But it is hardly zero. And so the U.S. must exercise whatever leverage it has remaining to preserve the rights and protect the needs of Afghan women.

The expected negotiations and the state of the battlefield

Long gone are the days when the George W. Bush administration embraced women’s rights and empowerment of women as a justification for its war on the Taliban. Long gone are the days of the Barack Obama administration when then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that the preconditions for U.S. negotiations with the Taliban included the Taliban’s renunciation of al-Qaida and their commitment to uphold the Afghan constitution and protect women’s rights. Less than ten years later, the renunciation of al-Qaida has yet to be explicitly and publicly made; the constitutional order and women’s rights are still subject to intra-Afghan negotiations and will be affected by the evolving balance of military power.

The Huawei Ban Could Crush U.S. Overseas Aid Efforts

By Colum Lynch

A new U.S. law designed to keep Chinese telecommunications companies out of American networks is threatening to delay, disrupt, or kill vital U.S. military, diplomatic, and aid programs, particularly in Africa and Asia, where Chinese telecoms are the only game in town.

The law, which went into effect in August, is intended to purge Chinese telecommunications technology from the communications systems of U.S. agencies and contractors, a task that is particularly challenging in countries that rely almost entirely on Chinese tech. Supporters hope the legislation will gradually wean American agencies and businesses off of Chinese technology and open the market for U.S. and allied countries to compete with China.

But critics say it may have the opposite effect, undermining foreign assistance programs and hamstringing U.S. agencies and companies vying with China and other rivals for influence—providing a boost for China as it seeks to promote its major infrastructure and trade mission, known as the Belt and Road Initiative.

“The administration’s interpretation of the law unequivocally throws a wrench into the works. Without real changes or numerous waivers it is going to have a major impact, with ripple effects across U.S. foreign assistance,” said Noam Unger, the vice president for development policy, advocacy, and learning at InterAction, an alliance of U.S.-based international relief organizations. “If you are trying to compete with China, hobbling yourself in terms of your foreign assistance is not advisable.”

Chinese database details 2.4 million influential people, their kids, addresses, and how to press their buttons

Simon Sharwood

A US academic has revealed the existence of 2.4-million-person database he says was compiled by a Chinese company known to supply intelligence, military, and security agencies. The researcher alleges the purpose of the database is enabling influence operations to be conducted against prominent and influential people outside China.

The academic is Chris Balding, an associate professor at the Fulbright University Vietnam.

And he says the company is company is named "Shenzhen Zhenhua".

Security researcher Robert Potter and Balding co-authored a paper [PDF] claiming the trove is known as the “Overseas Key Information Database” (OKIDB) and that while most of it could have been scraped from social media or other publicly-accessible sources, 10 to 20 per cent of it appears not to have come from any public source of information. The co-authors do not rule out hacking as the source of that data, but also say they can find no evidence of such activity.

“A fundamental purpose appears to be information warfare,” the pair stated.

Balding wrote on his blog that the database contains the following:

The information specifically targets influential individuals and institutions across a variety of industries. From politics to organized crime or technology and academia just to name a few, the database flows from sectors the Chinese state and linked enterprises are known to target.

The breadth of data is also staggering. It compiles information on everyone from key public individuals to low level individuals in an institution to better monitor and understand how to exert influence when needed.

China, Seeking a Friend in Europe, Finds Rising Anger and Frustration

Steven Lee

“You should be ashamed,” another lawmaker, Pavel Novotny, an outspoken district mayor in Prague, wrote, calling the Chinese “impudent, thoughtless, uncouth clowns” and demanding an apology.

The outburst was not an isolated one.

In country after country, China is facing rising anger over its policies and its behavior — from trade to human rights — a major setback on a continent that Beijing has viewed as a more pragmatic, and thus more willing, partner to provide ballast against sharply deteriorating relations with the United States.

For China’s leader, Xi Jinping, a lasting shift in European views poses an enormous challenge. In the short term, it threatens to undermine the country’s post-pandemic economic recovery by stifling new investments as the United States restricts them, especially in high tech. In the longer term, it could blunt his ambitions for China to offer an alternative to the United States as the global leader dictating the rules for governance and trade.

European frustrations with Chinese policies have been mounting, but they crystallized this year in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. China’s obfuscation of its early missteps in containing the coronavirus and its failure at “mask diplomacy” soured public sentiment in several countries, especially the Netherlands and Spain, where protective gear and other supplies that were purchased, not donated, were found to be defective.

In 2020, China’s Top Study Abroad Destination Is: China

Ni Dandan and Liu Siqi

When Wu Wenhao received an offer from New York University (NYU) in February, the 18-year-old thought he was about to begin a new life as an itinerant scholar. He planned to spend his first semester in northern Italy, before heading to New York after the winter vacation.

Then the coronavirus hit Europe and changed everything. Now, the college freshman’s fall semester promises to be far less glamorous.

When classes start in September, Wu won’t be in Florence; he’ll be at a WeWork in central Shanghai, just a 20-minute drive from his home.

NYU has booked out swathes of the coworking space in the eastern Chinese city, which the university is hastily converting into makeshift classrooms and lecture halls.

The new facilities will be used to accommodate thousands of local students unable or unwilling to travel to NYU or its Abu Dhabi campus for the new semester — a strategy the university has dubbed the Go Local plan.

Going local is my best option right now.
- Wu Wenhao, international student

It’s a radical response to the pandemic, but one that several Western universities are looking to follow as Chinese international students increasingly pressure colleges to let them continue their studies at home.

How US-China tensions could hamper development efforts

Bruce Jones

Development is becoming part of an ideological competition between the two top powers in the world.

China and the US are each seeking to defend or widen their zones of influence.

Multilateral institutions will need to work to prevent the development agenda from being a victim of geopolitical tensions.

Through much of the Cold War, international development was simultaneously an important policy objective in its own right, and an arena of superpower competition. That era’s titanic struggle between the Soviet Union and the United States, was among other things, a competition over models – between market-oriented democracy on the one hand, and communist economics and single party rule on the other.

Neither power limited their patronage to states whose governance aligned with their own, but both sought, when they could, to extend the range of their model and to form or consolidate ideological allies. In short, development policy was one part of a wider effort to forge and defend spheres of influence.

Erdogan Is Turning Turkey Into a Chinese Client State

By Ayca Alemdaroglu, Sultan Tepe

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan used to send shockwaves to Beijing with his outspoken support of China’s Uighur minority, a predominantly Turkic-speaking Muslim group in Xinjiang that is subject to horrific human rights violations. “The incidents in China are, simply put, a genocide,” Erdogan said in 2009, when he was prime minister. And it wasn’t just empty words: Turkey has been a safe haven for Uighurs fleeing persecution ever since the Chinese Communist Party took control of Xinjiang in 1949 and hosts one of the largest Uighur diaspora populations in the world.

Then came a sudden, unexpected switch. In 2016, Turkey arrested Abdulkadir Yapcan, a prominent Uighur political activist living in the country since 2001 and initiated his extradition. In 2017, Turkey and China signed an agreement allowing extradition even if the purported offense is only illegal in one of the two countries. Since early 2019, Turkey has arrested hundreds of Uighurs and sent them to deportation centers. And Erdogan’s remarks have turned diplomatically bland, just like any Uighur-related coverage in newspapers controlled by Erdogan and his supporters.

Erdogan’s remarkable U-turn has a simple explanation: His regime and Turkey’s economy are in crisis. With few other friends, Ankara is counting on Beijing to patch things up, and that requires adherence to Beijing’s talking points. Erdogan’s problems are mounting: Turkey’s economy has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, which has devastated its primary economic sector, tourism. As Erdogan tightens his control over the central bank and the courts, foreign reserves are shrinking, the trade deficit is rising, and the Turkish lira is plunging. Once seen as a model of democracy and economic development in the region, Turkey is now an authoritarian country; on the Liberal Democracy Index compiled by the University of Gothenburg’s V-Dem Institute, Turkey now ranks among the bottom 20, closer to China than the developed countries to which it once aspired. Western companies and investors, once attracted to Turkey’s fast-growing economy and population, are staying away.

This Soldier’s Witness to the Iraq War Lie

Frederic Wehrey

A few weeks before I deployed to Iraq as a young US military officer, in the spring of 2003, my French-born father implored me to watch The Battle of Algiers, Gillo Pontecorvo’s dramatic reenactment of the 1950s Algerian insurgency against French colonial rule. There are many political and aesthetic reasons to see this masterpiece of cinéma vérité, not least of which is its portrayal of the Algerian capital’s evocative old city, or Casbah. One winter morning in 2014, more than a decade after I first saw the film, I took a stroll down the Casbah’s rain-washed alleys and into the newer French-built city. Scenes from the black-and-white movie—like the landmark Milk Bar café where a female Algerian guerrilla sets off a bomb that kills French civilians—jumped to life. The ensuing French military response, memorably depicted in the film, included arbitrary arrests, torture, and “false flag” bombings that only inflamed the Algerian insurrection. 

It was these moral perils of counterinsurgency that my father hinted at. “Keep your eyes open,” he told me. This was a prescient warning, one that served as the backdrop for my deployment, even if the Algerian analogy was imperfect and would become overused. As American soldiers soon faced a guerrilla and civil war in Iraq for which they were woefully ill-equipped, intellectually and militarily, The Battle of Algiers would be screened and discussed at the Pentagon. To this day, it is taught to West Point cadets as a cautionary tale. 

Still, the full weight of the film’s lessons was not apparent to me in Iraq until one morning in the summer of 2003, when I received an urgent phone call about a captured Iraqi intelligence officer. My commander wanted me to go interview him at the Baghdad hospital where he was being treated for unspecified wounds. 

Decolonizing the United Nations Means Abolishing the Permanent Five

By Hannah Ryder, Anna Baisch, Ovigwe Eguegu

This year, as the effects of COVID-19 continue to be felt around the world, leaders are preparing to meet virtually to mark 75 years of the United Nations: its “diamond” anniversary. But 2020 has brought into focus some sharp issues around the U.N.’s effectiveness, including its largest donor, the United States, pulling funds from the World Health Organization (WHO). There were mounting problems in the U.N. prior to this. The U.N. and its agencies are constantly fighting for new money to cover escalating costs of various missions such as on health, education, and peacekeeping, despite global improvements in poverty. In terms of maintaining peace and security—the U.N.’s record has been dismal—from dithering over apartheid in South Africa, to Iraq, Rwanda, Yemen, the 2008 financial crisis, and now, COVID-19.

The typical responses to the U.N.’s failure have been to enlarge the P5, the five permanent members of the Security Council who represent the chief victors of World War II. Bring in other global powers such as India or Turkey. Move around the representational seats and create new categories. Create more seats for Africa. Dilute the veto power exercised by the P5.

But all of these measures are tinkering. None are adequate. The only way forward is to acknowledge the key difference between 1945 and 2020, decolonization, and abolish the permanent members of the Security Council altogether. Here’s why and how.

The roots of the U.N. are deeply colonial. Back in 1945 four out of the five members of the P5 were colonial states. Over the 75 years of the U.N.’s existence, 80 former colonies have gained independence, from India to Kenya, to Nigeria and Kazakhstan.

Europe and the Digital Cold War: Is the EU technologically vulnerable?

Dimitar Lilkov
Source Link

In a seminal article, Swedish polymath Nick Bostrom posits the ‘vulnerable world’ hypothesis. It is a complex premise which assumes that the chance of a destructive event occurring globally is quite likely if technological advancement continues in a prolonged timeline. He compares human progress to drawing different balls from a giant urn – most of them are beneficial or mixed blessings but there are also ‘black ball’ events which might destabilise civilisation. According to Bostrom, the preventive mechanisms against a potential technological or military doomsday scenario range from ideal global cooperation to limiting the production of certain technological items.

This is indeed a bleak view, which some might dismiss as yet another apocalyptic prediction. If you observe the global digital landscape, however, you might sense a storm brewing. A Digital Cold War is escalating between two economic giants whose digital juggernauts are dominating global supply chains and registering astronomical profits. Chinese surveillance technology has reached more than 80 countries in Asia, Africa and even in the heart of the EU. In parallel, private companies like Palantir secure lucrative contracts with the US government for monitoring internet traffic, combing terabytes of data and providing behavioural insights on a staggering scale.

The digital authoritarianism doctrine of the Chinese Communist Party is growing in appeal internationally, while unrestrained data monopolies from Silicon Valley excel at what they do best – accumulating data and acting as gatekeepers to the online world. The whole model of Internet governance and international cooperation in the technological domain has become defunct – you can`t replace the engine of an old VW minivan with a small-scale nuclear reactor and expect to navigate it safely on the highways.

The crippled shepherd

The only geopolitical actor actively working on limiting the negative externalities of a free-for-all technological race is the European Union. In recent years, the EU has tried to solve some of the most complex challenges when it comes to protecting user privacy, fighting malign disinformation or trying to restrain unlawful digital surveillance. The Old Continent has made an ambitious attempt to pioneer the golden global standard when it comes to legislation for the digital domain.

As cyberattacks rise globally, Japan's digital security found lacking


Japan’s push for digitalization amid the COVID-19 pandemic brings with it an increased risk of cyberattacks.

Ahead of the Tokyo Games next year, new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is spearheading efforts to set up a government entity dubbed the Digital Agency as early as next year.

The move comes as a slew of thefts involving bank accounts linked to NTT Docomo’s cashless payments service have been uncovered in recent weeks — highlighting the vulnerabilities of e-commerce — and amid a rise in cyberattacks on critical infrastructure around the world.

Against that background, The Japan Times asked one of the leading experts in the field of cyberdefense, Toshio Nawa, senior director of Tokyo-based security services and incident response provider of the Cyber Defense Institute, about the challenges that the country faces in its pursuit of digitalization and why a national body like the Digital Agency is essential.

After serving in a number of senior roles in charge of secure message coding and transmission in the Air Self-Defense Force, Nawa helped launch a security alert service at the Japan Computer Emergency Response Team Coordination Center before joining the Cyber Defense Institute.

In which area is Japan lacking in cyberdefense?

Japan is lagging significantly compared with other countries when it comes to correctly assessing cyberthreats at any given moment. The government’s situational awareness on threats that are unfolding now or about to happen in the future is so low that the decision-making on the necessary budget, human resources and overall institutional design is not in sync with reality.

The World Still Needs a United West

By David McKean and Bart M. J. Szewczyk

On August 14, 1941, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill secretly met aboard a ship off the Newfoundland coast. The two leaders discussed war strategy, but more importantly, they laid out their common vision for a postwar world in a joint statement later known as the Atlantic Charter. The charter articulated shared principles and cemented not only the transatlantic alliance but also the foundation of a world order that has endured for more than 70 years.

Today, that alliance has reached a low point. U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to leave NATO and referred to Europe as a “foe.” Some European officials have normalized the Trump administration’s denigration of the alliance. In interviews with us, they spoke of a reversion to historic norms, arguing that the United States is reverting to its pre-1941 isolationism and that the past eight decades of transatlantic cooperation were the exception to the rule.

But Trump is the exception. The alliance stagnated somewhat under previous U.S. administrations, but Trump has posed an open threat on an entirely new scale to the partnership Roosevelt and Churchill once immortalized. The current U.S. president has antagonized European leaders, fomented mistrust, and cast doubt on the value of the relationship itself.

But the transatlantic partnership is not beyond resurrection. U.S. and European leaders are already beginning to look beyond Trump and toward new possibilities for the alliance. In her State of the Union speech yesterday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stressed that Europeans “will always cherish the transatlantic alliance” and hope for “a new transatlantic agenda.” Indeed, successful U.S. and European foreign policy continues to rely on effective transatlantic cooperation. What the alliance needs is renewal: a refreshed statement of shared purpose and democratic values, together with new institutions dedicated to shared action.

America Needs to Lock Down Again

By Michael T. Osterholm and Mark Olshaker

In our essay “Chronicle of a Pandemic Foretold,” for the July/August issue of Foreign Affairs, we described the struggle against COVID-19 in terms of a baseball game and estimated that the United States was in about the third inning of a nine-inning contest. At this point, however, it may be more helpful to shift to an altogether different analogy. The unfolding story of the pandemic is a three-act play, in which the country is now midway through the second act.

The first act saw the disease spread from China to the rest of the world and to a woefully unprepared United States. The second witnessed Americans tire of restrictions and effectively surrender to the pandemic. Infection rates across the country soared during the summer and will likely rise again in the autumn as schools and universities reopen. To truly get the novel coronavirus under control, the United States must do what it has not done so far: impose real and stringent lockdowns across the country for roughly two months. Controlling the spread of the disease in this way will save lives ahead of the eventual end of this drama in the pandemic’s final act—the arrival of a safe, effective vaccine.


Act I opened in late 2019 with the emergence in China of a novel coronavirus that spread throughout much of the world with breathtaking speed and effect. Nations and regions faced the challenge in different ways and with varying levels of success. After a horrendous start, for example, Italy managed to get transmission substantially under control by imposing a near-complete shutdown of the northern part of the country. In the United States, both New York City and New York State saw catastrophic levels of infection that overwhelmed the entire health-care system. It is difficult to forget the images of refrigerated trailers sitting outside hospital emergency rooms to accommodate the dead. But under the leadership of Governor Andrew Cuomo—and thanks to a coordinated state public health response—New York locked down to get the number of cases to a manageable level and then maintain the low numbers, turning a disaster into a model for the rest of the United States.

The Endless Fantasy of American Power

By Andrew Bacevich

In this year’s presidential election campaign, candidates have largely sidestepped the role of armed force as an instrument of U.S. policy. The United States remains the world’s preeminent and most active military power, but Republicans and Democrats find other things to talk about.

Ever since the end of the Cold War, successive administrations have enthusiastically put U.S. military might to work. In the last three decades, the flag of the United States Army has accumulated 34 additional streamers—each for a discrete campaign conducted by U.S. troops. The air force and navy have also done their share, conducting more than 100,000 airstrikes in just the past two decades.

Unfortunately, this frenetic pace of military activity has seldom produced positive outcomes. As measured against their stated aims, the “long wars” in Afghanistan and Iraq have clearly failed, as have the lesser campaigns intended to impart some approximation of peace and stability to Libya, Somalia, and Syria. An equally unfavorable judgment applies to the nebulous enterprise once grandly referred to as the “global war on terrorism,” which continues with no end in sight.

And yet there seems to be little curiosity in U.S. politics today about why recent military exertions, undertaken at great cost in blood and treasure, have yielded so little in the way of durable success. It is widely conceded that “mistakes were made”—preeminent among them the Iraq war initiated in 2003. Yet within establishment circles, the larger implications of such catastrophic missteps remain unexplored. Indeed, the country’s interventionist foreign policy is largely taken for granted and the public pays scant attention. The police killing of Black people provokes outrage—and rightly so. Unsuccessful wars induce only shrugs.

How a Great Power Falls Apart

By Charles King

On November 11, 1980, a car filled with writers was making its way along a rain-slick highway to a conference in Madrid. The subject of the meeting was the human rights movement in the Soviet Union, and in the vehicle were some of the movement’s long-suffering activists: Vladimir Borisov and Viktor Fainberg, both of whom had endured horrific abuse in a Leningrad psychiatric hospital; the Tatar artist Gyuzel Makudinova, who had spent years in internal exile in Siberia; and her husband, the writer Andrei Amalrik, who had escaped to Western Europe after periods of arrest, rearrest, and confinement. 

Amalrik was at the wheel. Around 40 miles from the Spanish capital, the car swerved out of its lane and collided with an oncoming truck. Everyone survived except Amalrik, his throat pierced by a piece of metal, probably from the steering column. At the time of his death at the age of 42, Amalrik was certainly not the best-known Soviet dissident. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn had published The Gulag Archipelago, won the Nobel Prize in Literature, and immigrated to the United States. Andrei Sakharov had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, which he was forced to accept in absentia because the Soviet government denied him an exit visa. But in the pantheon of the investigated, the imprisoned, and the exiled, Amalrik occupied a special place. 

Starting in the mid-1960s, a series of high-profile prosecutions of writers, historians, and other intellectuals under Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev had galvanized the country’s dissidents. To many observers in the West, this nascent democratic movement seemed to offer a path toward de-escalating the Cold War. In the summer of 1968, just weeks before Soviet tanks rolled into Prague, The New York Times set aside three pages for an essay by Sakharov on “progress, peaceful coexistence, and intellectual freedom.” In the era of nuclear weapons, Sakharov said, the West and the Soviet Union had no choice but to cooperate to ensure the survival of humankind. The two systems were already witnessing a “convergence,” as he put it. They would have to learn to live together, leveling out national distinctions and taking steps toward planetwide governance.

Don’t Politicize Water

By Erika Weinthal, Neda Zawahri

The recently announced peace deals between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain stop short of repairing the political damage inflicted on the region and keep the door open for the possibility of future Israeli annexation of portions of the West Bank and Jordan Valley. The last few months of uncertainty over annexation come on the heels of not only a deterioration in Israel’s relationship with Jordan and the Palestinian Authority but also a crisis in critical issue areas such as water cooperation. Broadly, water cooperation is vital for fostering effective water management across borders as well as for building trust and confidence among adversaries.

Recent events have only exerted greater pressure on water resource availability in the Middle East. The combination of climate change, natural aridity, an influx of refugees from conflict-torn neighboring states, an ongoing pandemic, and mismanagement of existing supplies is challenging the region’s ability to meet daily domestic water needs. The relatively small Jordan basin provides access to the only perennial river for Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian territories, and is also shared by Lebanon and Syria.

For most of the 20th century, conflict predominantly defined relations between Israel and its Arab neighbors, and global leaders warned of so-called water wars in the Middle East. Instead, water has sometimes provided a glimmer of hope for bringing peace to the region. In the 1950s, after sporadic fighting over the construction of hydrological projects, U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent Eric Johnston as an envoy to the region to negotiate a settlement to the Jordan River water dispute. Although the Arab League failed to accept and ratify the Jordan Valley Unified Water Plan, known as the Johnston Plan, the two riparian states most dependent on the river, Israel and Jordan, attempted to comply with the agreement in exchange for U.S. funding.

Are Counter Violent Extremism Interventions Effective?

by Todd C. Helmus and Elizabeth Bodine-Baron
Government efforts to counter the propaganda and radicalization that lead to violent extremism are becoming more common around the world, but there's little research on whether such programs work. Funded by the Global Engagement Center at the U.S. Department of State, RAND conducted three randomized controlled trials—the gold standard in evaluation design—of what are called countering violent extremism (CVE) interventions, using radio and social media in Nigeria, Indonesia, and the Philippines. RAND also conducted a qualitative assessment of a program designed to train civil society members in the Philippines to directly counter violent extremism.

The results were mixed, but one conclusion was inescapable: countering violent extremism is not an easy task, and programmers should not always assume their content will be successful.


In communities in northern Nigeria affected by violent extremism, RAND recruited 2,064 participants via SMS/text message and assigned them randomly to listen to a CVE-themed radio talk show called Ina Mafita or to a control program (professional soccer matches) each week over two months. To monitor compliance, we texted participants a weekly quiz and correct answers earned a small financial incentive. Baseline and monthly surveys also were also delivered via SMS.

Russian-German Relations: Back to the Future

Dmitri Trenin

The poisoning of the opposition activist Alexei Navalny has become a turning point in Russo-German relations. The details of the incident are still largely unclear, but what is clear is that it has prompted Berlin to make a crucial decision for German foreign policy: it will no longer follow a special policy toward Russia. Berlin will not try to understand the other side’s motivation or strive for mutual understanding and at least basic cooperation. Nor will it act as an interpreter of Russian political language, or take it upon itself to communicate the position of its allies to Moscow.

This special role performed by Germany and its chancellor in recent years is now a thing of the past. From now on, Germany will have the same attitude to Russia as all the other countries in Western Europe. At the level of rhetoric, this will mean unflinching opposition from Berlin to Kremlin foreign and domestic policy, harsh criticism of specific steps taken by Moscow, and strong solidarity with the countries of Eastern Europe. At the economic level, many now expect the cancelation of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project. At the diplomatic level, we will likely see a significant restriction of official contact and possibly a suspension of dialogue at the top level.

It’s unlikely that Russian President Vladimir Putin envisaged this turn of events when he gave permission for Navalny to be flown from the Siberian city of Omsk to Berlin for treatment. If anything, he was probably expecting German Chancellor Angela Merkel to cooperate, and that Germany’s help would result in a joint way out of an unpleasant incident without any additional losses to Russia’s reputation.

3 trends that will transform the energy industry

Yasushi Fukuizumi

As energy use falls, electrification and renewable energy will keep expanding.

A distributed energy network will replace the traditional utility business model.

Digital transformation is critical to the success of this new model.

The energy transition has been talked about for many years – but now the pandemic has given the world an opportunity to make it happen more quickly than we could ever have imagined; if we make the right choices.

Energy demand declined by 3.8% over the first quarter of 2020 as a result of significantly reduced transportation, aviation, and general economic activity. Emissions dropped by 5%.

The risk is that, once COVID-19 is under control, demand and emissions could simply bounce back to pre-pandemic levels. There is only a small window of opportunity to prevent this from happening and set our course for the future: according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), we need to act before the end of 2020.

Picking Up the Broken Pieces of UK Foreign Policy

Sir Simon Fraser

Does the UK have a foreign policy? The failures in Iraq and Afghanistan curbed our Blairite appetite for intervention. Then the Brexit referendum and the advent of Donald Trump as US president upended the European and Atlantic pillars of our strategy. The UK has been outflanked by Russian opportunism, and on China it is confused about the balance of security risk and economic opportunity. Meanwhile, the world is accelerating into a dangerous, bipolar era of geopolitics.

The claim that leaving the EU would open a highway to British global influence was always hollow. Since 2016, the UK’s influence has declined; our forces are barely present in international theatres of conflict and, as recent days have again shown, the Brexit soap opera undermines our diplomacy and soft power. So far, there are only glimmers of a new direction.

On issues such as Iran, climate change and excluding Russia from the G7, the UK has stayed close to EU positions. Elsewhere, it has taken a tougher stance on China and Hong Kong that is aligned more closely with the US and the Five Eyes intelligence community, which includes Australia, Canada and New Zealand. There is also a renewed focus on human rights.

However, this does not add up to a coherent strategy. Getting it to do so is the job of this autumn’s 'integrated review' of security, defence, development and foreign policy. The timing is driven by the government’s comprehensive spending review, which — bizarrely — means they will reach conclusions without knowing what sort of deal, if any, we will strike with the EU, or who will be the next US president.

Securing Cyberspace

Michael Nelson, George Perkovich

Security threats and disinformation have made mayhem of life online. It will take experimental cooperation among governments, platforms, and civil society to improve safety without hampering innovation.

Traditional approaches to governing have never gotten a handle on cyberspace. There are too many actors and there is too much information, from too many sources, moving too quickly across too many jurisdictions. Bad actors further compound the problem, and discord among the big powers prevents the international community from cooperating effectively.

Although most software and digital infrastructure is commercially owned and operated, technology companies lack the legitimacy, breadth of interests, and public policy impulse to make life online safer and more civil. It’s not enough to have Facebook rules, or Google rules, or Alibaba and Huawei rules. And it certainly won’t help if bureaucrats in Beijing, Brussels, or Washington try to divide and conquer the digital political economy, pushing the rest of the world into one bloc or another.

Technology companies lack the legitimacy, breadth of interests, and public policy impulse to make life online safer and more civil.

It’s clear a new approach is needed. Strengthening cyber civilization will require hybrid strategies that channel the inventiveness of market forces to further security, development, human rights, and rational discourse.

Handbook for TikTok for non-profits and digital diplomacy

Andreas Sandre

Ispent the summer interviewing the social media managers behind some of the hottest TikTok accounts in the social impact and digital diplomacy space. I also spoke to experts and scholars to better understand how TikTok is growing in this space. And I asked TikTok creators and influencers about their experience on the platform and their advice for both users and organizations to amplify the causes they believe in.

What a summer it has been!

I learned so much about TikTok. Most of all, I had lots of fun experimenting with content and exploring the many innovative ways international organizations, global and local NGOs, advocacy groups, charities, and government entities use TikTok to engage with new audiences and drive awareness around a key issue or programs, from gender equality and refugees, to climate change and migrations.

This handbook is the result of my research, interviews, and my own experimenting on the platform. It does not represent the views of TikTok or of the organizations cited in the manual.